Written by Susan Cain
In this book, Susan Cain, herself an introvert, gives an in depth look at introversion; its strengths and weaknesses, how it is often misunderstood, and how valuable introverts are in a culture that has embraced the “Culture of Personality,” celebrating the charismatic, outgoing, quick speaking people who are more commonly known as extroverts.
Cain digs into history in the first section of the book, as she examines how our culture changed from being a “Culture of Character” where qualities such as honour, discipline, and seriousness were prized; into a “Culture of Personality” where being bold and entertaining, and putting on a good performance outweighs other qualities.
Cain touches on how introverts are constantly overlooked for leadership positions, because the qualities we look for in leaders don’t match up with what an introvert offers. In spite of the fact that introverts are often deep thinkers, with a unique and balanced perspective, as well as being good at bringing out the best in others, we have traded that in for whoever can make the best presentation.
She gives many examples of excellent introverted leaders who have a quiet strength, as opposed to a brilliant personality. When you look at some of the best leaders, the highest performing CEO’s of successful companies, instead of the “ideal leader” type, the one with the best presentation and personality, we often find a quiet, thoughtful, reserved, humble person.
In examining how this culture has affected western Christianity, Cain discovers that many churches seek out extroverts over introverts for leadership positions, and trade in solitude for an emphasis on socializing and participating in programs and events. The danger in embracing this mindset is that, unlike business or pleasure, within the context of the church and a relationship with God, if you do not fit the extrovert mold, it is easy to question the validity and sincerity of your Christian walk, and wonder if God prefers extroverts. The outward expression has begun to seem more important than inner reality.
A key point that she stresses throughout her book is that of balance. She does not vilify extroverts, but recognizes that both extroverts and introverts are necessary for a healthy balance, whether it be in a business, political, educational or family context.
What I liked about this book was the emphasis on the uniqueness of every person. Different people shine under different circumstances, and being different is not bad. Cain has an easy to read writing style, the book is interspersed with stories of real people all over. She shares a lot of scientific studies, but does so in a very relevant way, so that you come away with a better, fuller understanding of the topic.
Overall, this was a really good read, one that I would definitely recommend. It really broadened my perspective on this subject, and gave me a much better understanding of both extroverts and introverts. If you are an introvert, this book will give you permission to be yourself, to recognize and embrace the qualities that make you unique, and help you navigate through the “extrovert friendly situations” you find yourself in. If you are an extrovert, this will help you understand the “other side” better, and even encourage you to take a few pages from their book, you don’t always have to be “life of the party,” sometimes it’s okay to just be quiet.
Have you read Quiet? What did you think? Are you an introvert or an extrovert, or a mix of the two?